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Ficus Nerifolia Care Explained from A to Z

Ficus Nerifolia Care Explained from A to Z

The wide variety of plant shapes, sizes, and colors is truly remarkable in the Ficus genus. Dubbed the Willow Leaf fig, the Ficus Nerifolia is yet another beautiful Ficus species. 

With its small-sized leaves and dense foliage, Ficus Nerifolia is grown for its aesthetics. It is for the same properties that these plants are a particular favorite of Bonsai tree enthusiasts around the world.


Ficus Nerifolia Care 

Ficus Nerifolia prefers well-draining soil rich in organic matter. It loves the sun and needs direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. Ficus Nerifolia needs average amounts of water. It will require more water than other Ficus species. The ideal temperature range is between 60-95 F (18-35 C).



Ficus Nerifolia will thrive in well-draining soil, which is high in organic matter. Although it likes loamy or sandy soil types, this plant does not have very specific soil requirements and will grow just about any soil type. Recommended soil pH is 6.5-7.

This Ficus species can be grown in virtually any soil type ranging from regular garden soil to high-end potting mixes. That said, it is, however, better for your plant that it gets the best conditions to grow in. 

If potting outdoors, it is alright if you use only garden soil to fill the gaps around the tree. It is even better to use an organic potting mix to plant the tree in the ground and use it as topsoil. 

This ensures the roots get a warm welcome to grow into the soil, and the plant can get established early. However, a Ficus Nerifolia owner planting the ornamental tree in the ground is a rarity.

The Willow Leaf Ficus is most commonly grown as a Bonsai tree. If not that, in decoration pots as an ornamental plant, which brings us to the soil requirements when growing this plant in pots. 

Using a combination of more than two potting media is recommended when growing this plant in pots. Perlite, organic compost, and regular potting or garden soil used in equal amounts is the perfect mixture. 

When growing as a Bonsai, the soil requirements are even more intricate and can’t be compromised. The plant needs adequate nutrition, water retention, and aeration, all in one miniature pot. 



Ficus Nerifolia calls for direct sunlight for at least 6 hours per day. This is not one of the low-light adaptive Fig species and will not tolerate low light. If you have to bring it indoors for the winter, a grow light is needed to fulfill its light needs. 

In the world of plants, there is a general rule about leaf size and light requirements. Although this is not a hard and fast rule, plants with smaller leaf sizes tend to require more light to grow. 

There is also a general rule that plants with lighter foliage coloration need more light. This is because less chlorophyll (the same chemical that gives plants their green color) is present in the leaves. 

The Ficus Nerifolia is no exception to both of these rules. Its small, narrow, and light green leaves mean less chlorophyll to absorb light in this plant as a whole. 

When a plant species has less chlorophyll in its leaves, it needs more light to produce the same amount of energy and grow. 

If grown outdoors, give the plant a sunny place. If grown indoors, place in a window that received at least 4 hours of sun. 

When light levels seem to dip in the winter, using a grow light is an excellent option to keep this plant thriving.



Ficus Nerifolia needs average amounts of water. It will require more water than other Ficus species. Always try to maintain a regular watering practice and keep moisture available in the soil. That said, care must be taken to avoid overwatering. 

This plant has high average transpiration rates and will require more water than other Fig species such as Ficus Elastica or Ficus Benjamina

Water this plant when the top layer of the soil gets dry. This plant is not very easygoing if you underwater it. The foliage is likely to dry up and fall off if you neglect it. 

Hence, keep adequate moisture present in the soil constantly. Using water retaining ingredients in the soil is also recommended. 

Give the plant a deep watering every time you give it a drink. Keep watering your Ficus Nerifolia until water drips out of the drainage hole. 



Ficus Nerifolia loves high temperatures. It can tolerate temperatures higher than other Ficus species, with an ideal temperature range is between 60-95 degrees Fahrenheit (18-35 degrees Celsius). The plant will not survive frost and must be overwintered indoors. It is hardy to USDA zones 10-11.

Another unique characteristic of this plant is its ability to tolerate high heat. Thanks to its foliage again.

Small and elongated leaves enable this plant to stand even the harshest of sunlight. The small leaves can cool themselves quickly through transpiration, keeping the plant’s temperature under control. 

So even if you left this plant outside on a sweltering hot day, it would fare just fine. But that’s not the case in the colder months of the year. 

Willow Leaf figs absolutely hate the cold and will stop growing and may even die if left in low temperatures for an extended period of time. 

If you live anywhere cooler than USDA zone 10b, you will have to bring this plant indoors for the winter. And that too sooner than all of your other heat-loving plants. 

Once the temperature dip below the 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius) mark, it is time to bring your Ficus Nerifolia indoors and place it somewhere warm and comfortable.  



The Willow Leaf Ficus loves a lot of humidity. The ideal humidity levels for this plant are more than 50%. While you don’t need to worry about the plant’s humidity requirements in the summer, it will require some help in the dry winter months. Use a humidifier or humidity tray to notch up humidity.

When grown as a Bonsai, you will want this plant to produce aerial roots. Build up artificial humidity around the plant using rocks. When the plant produces aerial roots, insert the roots inside plastic straws and let them stay inside. 

Being inside a straw prevents the root from drying up and enables it to grow until it reaches the soil and gets established. 

When you bring the plant to overwinter indoors, using a humidifier or alternatively a humidity tree is recommended. 



Fertilize your Ficus Nerifolia on a regular basis to promote healthy foliage. Fertilize every 3-4 weeks only during the growing season. While organic compost is the better option, using a balanced 20-20-20 formula is also an option. 

Fertilizing is a good practice when growing this plant in the ground or in a medium-large-sized pot but is not entirely necessary if you’ve used organic components in the potting mix.

When growing this plant as a Bonsai, fertilizing it as needed is a necessity. When your Ficus Nerifolia has to gather all the nutrients it needs to grow from such a small amount of soil, the soil can get exhausted quickly. 

Fertilize your Ficus Nerifolia Bonsai every 2-3 weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer, but in mild doses. 



This tropical plant can grow as tall as 60 feet when allowed to grow freely in the ground. It has light green, narrow leaves that are 1-3 inches in width and 3-6 in length. Growth is most rampant in hot and humid conditions. This species rarely blossoms out of its native area.

When given a small pot to grow, the plant can grow as tall as 3 feet. But then it gets rootbound and needs a bigger pot to grow taller. Here is a list of growing space available and the expected height of the plant. 

  • 12 inches-3 feet
  • 3 feet-6 feet
  • 6-feet-12 feet
  • 12-24 feet
  • 24-60 feet

Ficus Nerifolia will also grow aerial roots in high humidity. 



Ficus Nerifolia will love a terra cotta pot with adequate drainage. This plant can also be grown in plastic or ceramic pots. But when growing this plant as Bonsai, the pot choice can be tricky. Choose a round, glazed Bonsai pot to compliment the elliptical and bright-colored foliage.

The larger the pot diameter, the taller your Ficus Nerifolia will grow. 

When training a Willow Leaf fig as a Bonsai, the pot choice can be made easier by determining what would compliment the looks of the plant. 

Deciduous, soft-looking trees go with round pots. Trees with bright-colored foliage are complemented by colorful glazed pots. 



Pruning your Ficus Nerifolia right is the key to a better-looking plant. Pruning should ideally be done during the growing season to promote dense foliage, which looks good on these ornamental trees. Never defoliate this plant entirely. 

Ficus Nerifolia responds well to pruning, and pruning it to the desired shape is very easy. It is for the same reason the species is a Bonsai growers’ favorite. 

Always use a sharp and clean pair of garden shears. With this plant, however, you will need to employ precision cutting and pinching techniques due to its foliage’s small size. 

You can regularly pinch the growing tips of the plant during the growing season to promote bushier growth and keep the plant to size. 


Ficus Nerifolia Propagation

The Willow Leaf fig can be propagated via seeds, stem cuttings, and air layering. Cuttings are the most straightforward option to propagate this plant. Obtain pencil-thick hardwood cuttings from a mature plant and plant them in a moist potting mix and place them in a warm, lightly shaded location. 

The best time to propagate this plant is in the spring or the rainy summer season. Propagating out of these windows has relatively slim chances of success. 

Air layering is the Bonsai growers’ favorite method of propagation as it enables you to obtain branches as thick as 3 inches in diameter, providing you with stellar Bonsai material in no time. 


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Common Problems with Ficus Nerifolia

Ficus Nerifolia is not susceptible to a lot of diseases, but those that can attack the tree take their root from improper watering practices. 


Root Rot

Overwatering and poor soil drainage will lead to Root Rot. The plant will display wilting leaves even though when the soil is moist as initial signs. 

Severe Root Rot symptoms include significant leaf drop, black mold appearing on the base of the trunk, or fatality. 


Fungal Infections in Foliage

This plant may contract one of the many fungal diseases whereby discolored patches start growing on the leaves and stems. 

This usually occurs when the foliage stays wet for too long in high humidity. To prevent this, water the plant during the mornings or evenings and avoid watering from the top so that the foliage gets wet. 



The Willow Leaf fig is a unique plant to have in your collection and is just the perfect species to train into a Bonsai. 

But to help this plant thrive, you will need to follow its specific needs, as mentioned in the guide you’ve just read. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Ficus Nerifolia


Why is my Ficus Nerifolia dropping leaves?

Ficus Nerifolia usually drops foliage when it’s underwatered. The plant has a special mechanism to reduce transpiration rates to a bare minimum by losing its leaves when not watered for a long time. On the contrary, it displays similar behavior when overwatered. 


How to make Ficus Nerifolia grow smaller leaves?

Defoliating the plant during the growing season will make the plant grow smaller-sized foliage. In the middle of spring, cut back on the foliage hard. The resultant foliage will be more vigorous and relatively smaller in size. This procedure might need to be repeated over several years to achieve smaller foliage. 

How to thicken Ficus Nerifolia trunk?

As the plant grows, the trunk gets thicker with time. When growing as a bonsai, spread the roots out of the plant radially to promote a beautiful Nebari structure. There’s no shortcut when it comes to root thickening, as it will only grow thicker with the amount of foliage it has to support.